How to Go to a Networking Event Alone and Nail It

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I admit that I’m kinda definitely a control freak. I like to know what the plan is, who’s going, what to expect, etc. “Just winging it” isn’t really in my vocabulary. Life would be a lot less stressful if this wasn’t the case, but it’s part of my personality and I’m learning to embrace it. But my love of control/need for total knowledge of a situation before I can get into it can make certain aspects of life more challenging.

For example, going to networking events alone. The idea makes my skin crawl, but I really do love meeting new people and I know how important networking is, so I do it. Last week, I went to an event where I didn’t know anyone (scary) at a spot I’d never been to (also scary). I won’t lie, I was nervous sweating the whole time, but I ended up meeting some great people and was really glad I went. To soothe my inner control freak before the event, here’s what I did:

  • Research the event/space ahead of time: It sounds a little insane, but I feel much better when I have some sense of what the places looks like and where I’ll park. This way I know I won’t get completely lost and be late, which is something that causes me serious anxiety. Truthfully, Google Maps Street View is my best friend. For some reason being able to envision where I’m headed helps to make me feel better in an unfamiliar situation.
  • Get involved on social media: If you’re going to a networking event where you don’t know anyone, see if people are tweeting about it ahead of time and join in. Then you can use my favorite line: “Hey, we’ve tweeted each other!” It’s super nerdy but a good ice breaker, plus it helps you feel less overwhelmed by a room full of strangers. I was able to match faces with Twitter handles when I first arrived, making it easier to strike up a conversation.
  • Understand it’s only going to be awkward for a few minutes: In my experience, networking events really only feel overwhelming for the first few minutes you get there. Walking in and trying to find someone to talk to is daunting, yes, but once you’ve got that you’re golden. Promise yourself that you can handle ten minutes of awkward and then you’ll be fine.
  • Know that it’s okay to be nervous: I don’t care how confident you are or how many networking events you’ve been to, going someplace totally alone is scary. It’s okay to feel nervous, just don’t let that stop you from participating.

In situations where the reward outweighs the awkward, you know you’ll feel better fighting with your inner control freak and going to the networking event/acquaintance’s party/etc. It’s sort of like working out. Suck it up and then enjoy the benefits later.

Are you a control freak too? How do you manage this and handle unfamiliar situations? 

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